Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why do this?

Why do people have the desire to give it all up, sell everything and start to travel? Talking to people who went before us it seems there is usually some form of emotional trauma that started it all. Illness, redundancy, bankruptcy, broken up marriages or just pure frustration with life in general, to name just a few.

We weren't any different; unhappy with work, boring colleagues, pathetic bosses and being surrounded by small minded people in general was enough for me to have the desire to pack up and leave. Yesterday's episode of Desperate Housewives and Underbelly were the main subjects at work, and if that had been exhaustively dealt with then there was always the bloody Footy... I'd watch it myself if I was interested, as it happens I'm not. Just as I'm not interested in the sexual fiction of a male work colleague so grossly overweight that he needed a mirror to find the body part he was apparently so proud of.
I had found myself working for a bus company. Not that I particularly wanted to, it had simply been a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and they asked me to fix the carnage in blown-up engines and gearboxes. The owner of the company, a spitting image of John Cleese without being anywhere near as funny, was systematically destroying something his father had worked a lifetime for. Nevertheless he made it clear that he had more brains than the rest of us, while not being smart enough to see he was being robbed blind by his second in command who was the cause of all the mechanical mayhem. 'Short people have little eyes, little minds and go around telling great big lies' goes the Randy Newman song. If ever that was true for anyone then it was for the bully who had even managed to be given the title Maintenance Coordinator, without knowing the first thing about maintenance. I have yet to find anyone as arrogant and unhindered by any form of knowledge, and hopefully I never will.
Still, I was living the good life compared to Jeanette who found herself working for the most unsympathetic 'woman' I have ever met, finding her joy in Facebook and sending her sexual fantasies via e-mail to the little bully I was working with; who felt the need to show it to everyone. Her whole business depends on what is called casual workers. While there are situations in which employing casual workers is quite understandable, 'madam' just used it because casuals have no rights, don't need sick pay, no holiday pay and don't know if they have a job tomorrow. She treated them without any respect, expected them to sit by the phone at 7 am awaiting her text message and if there is work be ready 10 minutes later. Do I need to explain further? Oh well, might as well include that the working conditions were lousy, the pay was lousy and at the end of the season, or whenever else she didn't need you anymore she just threw them away like an old machine. While she shamelessly exploited her workers, she drove the BMW X5; aptly named by TopGear the drugdealer's car. Jeanette worked for 3 years at their tree nursery; where the only thing being nurtured, was malicious gossip and backstabbing.

We found ourselves in a stage of our lives where we not only had enough but also realised we were too old to start a new career and yet too young to keep doing this for another 15 years. It was time to make a change. A change in thinking and a rethink about what was really important in life. 
We had made a change 8 years ago when we emigrated to the other side of the world, but that hadn't been enough. Sure the landscape had changed for the better, sure the language had changed too but there were also too many similarities. Soccer had been replaced with Footy, hotted-up hatchbacks had been replaced with hotted-up V8s and the overconsumption of beer had been replaced by an even bigger overconsumption of beer. At the same time the beautiful nature we saw on our first visit here 12 years ago, and which attracted us to the country in the first place, was being systematically destroyed at an alarming rate. The famous Australian Kangaroo had evolved from TV star to dogfood and the Tasmanian Wilderness destroyed into wood pulp by a company aptly named Gunns. Napalm bombing as done in the Vietnam war is still being done today in the Tasmanian forests. The skies are orange for days at the end of each summer. Not because of beautiful sunsets but massive forest fires. 'Cleaning up' they call it. Not if you suffer from Asthma. And if that wasn't enough shooting Kangaroos turned out to be a fun event for the whole family where children as young as 10 are taught how to blow skippy's head off with a shotgun. In Tasmania, the most beautiful state according to some, the most corrupt according to others, things are even worse. Every night there is a full scale slaughter going on amongst the Wallabies, all just for 'fun'.

It can hardly be called a surprise that we were all in for Mike's idea to travel around the world for an indefinite time on motorcycles and in 2012 we decided that enough was enough. Time to pack up and bugger off. We made a bucket list of places we wanted to go to and a route emerged by simply connecting the dots on a map. We had no idea if we could pull it off and actually have a good time as well. Statistics tell us that most relationships end while on holiday, and this wasn't going to be just a holiday. We didn't have any experience in long term motorcycle travel, didn't have the bikes to do it on according to the 'experts' and our son didn't even have a bike or a license yet.
Looking for information we submerged ourselves into the frustrating world of the world wide web, where 1% seems to be true and the rest is pure fiction. We saw the Long Way Round video, read the adventures of a couple of Brits living in a cabin on the Alaskan border at minus 45°C, looked at the Globebusters expedition to learn how not to do it, read travel guides and collected as much information as we could at the travel agents. 

It was daunting to say the least. We read more about disasters than anything else. It seemed nothing went normal and even something as simple as a border crossing was apparently a hard struggle. Accidents stopped many before they had even properly started. If half of it was true then South America's roads must be littered with blood stained mangled motorbikes. Why do this? I wondered. Why do we have to sell everything and confine ourselves to a plastic tent, shake to bits on roads we shouldn't be on, on bikes that weren't even vaguely designed for this and with three people who weren't designed for it either. We aren't spring chickens after all but approaching the halfway mark while Mike, without any motorcycling experience was about to start on a journey that has sent a lot of very experienced motorcyclists to hospital. Surely we would end-up as a statistic in a civil servants computer on motorcycle related deaths somewhere?

This is a tale of a family of three who could have kept doing what they were doing, who could have assimilated and joined the comfortably numb waiting for our first pension check to arrive, hoping we would live that long. Instead we escaped the boredom sold up and went on a motorbike trip. A trip to anywhere the wind blows. We thought it would be New Zealand, then Europe, the Americas, Africa, Russia and Mongolia... but it went rather differently!